AusAID unveils new contracting mechanism for advisers

The Australian government is looking for talented individuals and organizations from around the globe ready to take on development and humanitarian relief assignments.

And these consultants need not be seasoned veterans; more entry-level candidates are very welcome, too.

So, what’s this all about?

On Feb. 28, the Australian Agency for International Development unveiled the latest in a series of steps to modernize its procurement and increase value for money as the country expands its development programs overseas. As part of this reform, the government will create shortlists of consultants that may be engaged in the coming years for short and long-term missions.

The reform follows the Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness and continues the implementation of the Adviser Remuneration Framework, introduced in 2011, which provides a streamlined and internationally competitive AusAID pay schedule for advisers.

Taken together, these reforms paint the picture of a country eager to increase aid effectiveness and make the most out of its untied aid environment by recruiting the best talent, wherever it may be.

Ample work opportunities, predictable pay rates

Through May 1, 2012, AusAID will be accepting online tenders of individuals and organizations eager to be shortlisted for foreign aid projects. These shortlists will be part of what will be called the Aid Advisory Services Standing Offer Panel.

The panel will have 17 professional categories. Depending on the area of expertise, each category will list up to several hundreds of advisers — both individuals and organizations.

Those who are accepted to the panel may be engaged for short and long-term assignments — not only with AusAID but with several other Australian government departments and agencies involved in development cooperation as well. The switch to a single procurement mechanism for advisory services will make it easier for aid advisers to engage with the Australian government.

Consultants who perform well on assignment can expect to remain part of the panel beyond its initial appointment term of three years. The mechanism allows for two extensions of three years each, at AusAID’s discretion.

In addition, AAS Standing Offer Panel members enjoy pay certainty when tasked under the panel arrangement. They will be compensated in accordance with AusAID’s Adviser Remuneration Framework, which sets the rates, allowances and other fees that consultants will receive depending on their expertise, experience level and assignment duration. The rates prescribed by the Adviser Remuneration Framework will be reviewed in 2012 and then periodically throughout the term of the standing offer, and will keep pace with industry standards.

The creation of the AAS Standing Offer Panel supersedes all aid-related period offer panels, which until now were used to contract short-term advisers only. All existing period offer subagreements (called services orders or tasking notes) will be honored until their expiry dates, but members of these panels will have to apply to the AAS Standing Offer Panel to be considered for engagement in the future.

Important: For those who wish to be part of the panel, time is of the essence. Once the tender period closes, there may not be another one for several years. AusAID officials have noted that they may issue another RFT in three years to preserve its roster of experts, or add new categories to it depending on the agency’s needs.

An open, streamlined procurement process

For the AAS Standing Offer Panel, AusAID will, for the first time, use a fully automated tendering process. Consultants will need to complete their applications through an online tool called APET.

Consultants may apply for several professional categories in the AAS Standing Offer Panel as long as they have the required skills.

AusAID promises a fair and open procurement process. The agency is encouraging candidates of varying levels of experience, from junior consultants to senior executive types, to apply for a panel appointment. Also, an applicant’s nationality, location and size (when it comes to organizations) are not considered — after all, the Australian aid program is completely untied.

AAS Standing Offer Panel appointees will be listed in a database that enables the Australian government to match aid experts with assignments and monitor performance.

Ultimately, AusAID hopes to expand use of e-procurement systems to support more efficient tender and contract management processes.

Attracting new partners

With the new AAS Standing Offer Panel, Australian officials hope to realize the full potential of untied aid and open up the country to new expert partners from around the globe.

The goal, to boost competition, is not surprising, given plans to increase Australia’s aid budget to at least 8 billion Australian dollars ($8.6 billion) by 2015-16, four times the size of its 2009-10 level.

The budget increase coincides with an expansion of Australian development cooperation in several geographic regions, including Asia-Pacific — the country’s traditional turf — as well as Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. Experts with knowledge and experience working in these regions are encouraged to apply for appointment to the AAS Standing Offer Panel.

Eliza Villarino co-wrote this report.

About the author

  • Rolf Rosenkranz

    Rolf Rosenkranz oversees a talented team of in-house journalists, correspondents and guest contributors located around the globe. Since joining Devex in early 2008, Rolf has been instrumental in growing its fledgling news operation into the leading online source for global development news and analysis. Previously, Rolf was managing editor at Inside Health Policy, a subscription-based news service in Washington. He has reported from Africa for the Johannesburg-based Star and its publisher, Independent News & Media, as well as the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, a German daily.